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Tours include a bike trip through Newport to see its street improvements, and a walking tour of downtown Providence and its many innovative new projects.

Tours will be hosted by Bike Newport, and by a consortium of Providence firms active in redevelopment of its livable and beautiful downtown core

NEWPORT, RI (March 25th) - The 60th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference, which will take place here in a little over one month, will include guided tour offerings before the opening reception on Friday, April 26th, and also on Monday, April 29th, after the closing party the evening before.

The rich lineup of frontier urban topics covered in the conference will include new research and case studies, and new tools and strategies for public space, placemaking, urban resilience, housing affordability and diversity, zoning code reform, street and transportation reform, aesthetics and livability, and livable cities and towns for ALL. Speakers include leading researchers, city officials, practitioners, NGO heads and others working to build a new generation of more livable, humane, ecological cities, towns and suburbs.

Partners and participating organizations in the conference include The King's Foundation (UK), UN-Habitat, the Congress for the New Urbanism, the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture, and Urbanism (INTBAU), the US chapter if INTBAU, HealthBridge Canada, The Seaside Institute, PlacemakingX, The Urban Guild, and local institutions including the Rhode Island Department of Health, Bike Newport, and Roger Williams University, as well as others to be announced shortly.

We will gather at the historic Bois Doré estate, generously provided by our hosts, Fairfax and Sammons Architects. The venue is centrally located in Newport, in walking distance of many hotels, restaurants and shops. Newport is easily accessible by train, bus or car from New York, Boston or Providence.

The current draft program can be viewed here (subject to final adjustments):

Registration is currently open for the discounted rate through March 31. After April 1, the regular registration fee will increase by $100.00 USD. For more information and to register, visit the conference web page:

Registered attendees are also invited to sign up for tours on Friday the 26th, or Monday the 29th, to experience the wealth of rich case studies in Newport and Providence. The IMCL conference series has always located in beautiful, instructive case study locales that allow immersive learning and peer-to-peer exchanges.

On Friday, local bikability advocates at Bike Newport will lead a 2-hour bike tour from 2 to 4PM. Attendees will walk to their location at 62 Broadway in Newport (about half an hour walk from the conference venue, Bois Doré, on a beautiful and instructive path) and then depart for a two-hour ride, returning in time to walk back to Bois Doré for the opening reception at 5PM.

Newport is home to more colonial buildings than any other city in the US. Participants will visit the major sites by bicycle on an easy ride that is informative and fun.

Rhode Island is called the "Cradle of the American Soul" and in many ways, Newport was its heart. From its beginning, freedom of religion (heresy to some) and democracy have been cornerstone concepts on which the city was built, and informed America's founding principles.

This history can be experienced and explored on our tour when we visit the oldest synagogue in the US, the 1699 Quaker Meeting House, colonial neighborhoods, cemeteries, and of course the iconic Newport Tower, whose origin is still a source of argument today. We will also see the oldest tavern in the US, owned by a notorious pirate.

Bike Newport's "Traffic Garden" where kids (and also adults!) can learn safe biking skills.

Your tour guide, Art Spivack, is an easy-going local college professor with extensive knowledge of the political, religious, architectural and cultural history (as well as the long history of local gossip). He'll be joined by Bari Freeman, the Executive Director of Bike Newport, who'll sprinkle the experience with "livable city" context along the way.

On Monday, attendees can join civic leaders, visionary developers and architects to explore the urban renaissance that has come to downtown Providence. Buff Chace of Cornish Associates, Brent Runyon of Runyon Heritage Associates, Don Powers of Union Studio Architects, and others will lead this walking tour of downtown sites, including a lunch stop at a local eatery (purchase your own preferred meal).

This tour will illuminate changes in the urban environment in the last fifty years that have made downtown Providence a more livable city. You'll learn about how moving railroads, rivers and highways contributed to Providence’s renaissance. Learn from planners and designers how a 1990 master plan helped change a sluggish downtown into a vibrant, livable neighborhood.

Downtown Providence, a remarkable regeneration of a livable neighborhood

Tour stops will include: Providence Station, Waterplace Park, Kennedy Plaza, the Providence Arcade (America’s oldest extant indoor shopping mall), the Industrial Trust Building, and Westminster Street.

The tour will feature innovative affordable housing work by Don Powers and his firm, Union Studio Architects. The work was the subject of a recent profile in Traditional Building magazine, available online here:

The tour will begin and end at the clock tower of Providence Station, the downtown stop for Amtrak and MBTA (22 minutes by train from Kingston Station, across from Newport). Attendees can take an Uber or bus from Newport to Kingston Station, and/or take a bus directly from Newport to Providence.

Registered attendees and up to one guest can sign up for tours here:

ABOUT THE CONFERENCE SERIES: The IMCL conferences were begun in 1985 by Henry Lennard, a Viennese medical sociologist, and Suzanne Lennard, a British architectural and urban scholar. The Lennards were passionate about sharing the best evidence-based lessons of great cities and towns to improve the quality of life for all. To do it, they brought together many of the world’s most innovative and successful mayors, planners, economic development specialists, designers, developers, NGO officials, and researchers and scholars. In the years since its founding, the IMCL has become a unique peer-to-peer gathering of city leaders and researchers, sharing the latest tools and strategies to build a new generation of more livable, ecological, equitable, beautiful generation of cities, towns and suburbs. The conferences are typically hosted in beautiful, intimate and instructive case-study locales in the US or Europe, with attendees sharing lessons from all parts of the world.

The IMCL conferences are produced by the Lennard Institute for Livable Cities, a US 501(c)3 public benefit corporation. All donations and sponsorship contributions are deductible under US tax rules. See also


Research has clearly demonstrated the critical impact of urban structure on our present and future well-being -- but there is also a translation gap in overcoming "business as usual," and driving effective reforms to policy and practice.

ABOVE: ChatGPT 4's version of Newport as a livable city, generated in response to a few text prompts. Aggressive research in artificial intelligence has exploded, and has begun to transform policy and practice -- while urban research is lagging behind.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post is in a series of topics for discussion at the 60th International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference to be held in Newport, RI USA, April 26-28, 2024.

NEWPORT, RI - The agenda of the International Making Cities Livable (IMCL) conference series, founded in 1985, has always been to connect interdisciplinary research to policy and practice, and thereby to drive effective reforms to make cities and towns more livable, more equitable, more economically vibrant, and more ecologically durable. That will be especially true for its upcoming 60th conference in Newport, Rhode Island, titled "Making Cities Livable: Research Into Communication, and ACTION."

Many other urban reform organizations share this agenda. The United Nations' human settlements agency, UN-Habitat, adopted its similar "New Urban Agenda" in 2016, following a clear mandate to respond to growing urban and planetary challenges. Its stated goal was a "new paradigm," aimed at creating a new generation of walkable, mixed use, lower emissions, higher quality cities, towns and suburbs. The New Urban Agenda was adopted by acclamation by all 193 member states of the United Nations, making it the globally agreed framework for urbanization and urban reform for the next two decades.

The New Urban Agenda identifies research as a critical resource to drive needed reforms in policy and practice. Among these reforms are "well-designed networks of safe, accessible, green and quality streets and other public spaces... appropriate compactness and density, polycentrism and mixed uses.... considering the human scale, and measures that allow for the best possible commercial use of street-level floors... [to] reduce vulnerability, build resilience and responsiveness to natural and human-made hazards and foster mitigation of and adaptation to climate change..." and to "prevent urban sprawl."

The New Urban Agenda also outlines a "shared vision" as follows:

We share a vision of cities for all, referring to the equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, seeking to promote inclusivity and ensure that all inhabitants, of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, are able to inhabit and produce just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements to foster prosperity and quality of life for all.

This is of course an exceedingly ambitious agenda, and it will require effective policies and practices to be fully or even partially implemented. In turn, we will need effective knowledge and evidence of what will work -- exactly the role of urban research.

The Congress for the New Urbanism, a professional reform body created in 1993, has also adopted a very similar agenda. The CNU is a partner of the Lennard Institute, producers of the IMCL, along with the King's Foundation (UK) and others. According to CNU president Mallory Baches -- a speaker at the upcoming IMCL conference -- the three key elements of the CNU's current Strategic Plan are: 1) reforming detrimental regulations, 2) finding effective pathways to affordability and urban quality for all, and 3) responding effectively to climate threats with both adaptation and mitigation.

At a recent research symposium at the University of Notre Dame, participants concluded that there is now an urgent priority to identify, develop and disseminate research that can more effectively drive reforms in policy, practice and education. Following are some of the points discussed.

The first task of such a project might be to outline an agenda for more specific research, as well as effective forms of communication to raise awareness and drive change. This could begin with an assessment, the scope of which may include:

  • What has already been fully established, but has not yet been communicated or disseminated effectively (e.g. why urbanism matters, in a range of ways);

  • What has already been partially established, but only in fragmented form across disciplines, and has not yet been brought together into a coherent picture for dissemination;

  • What has not yet been established, and where there is a need to conduct further research.

There is already a significant body of research on the important impacts of urbanism, including:

  • Impacts of urban form on climate mitigation and adaptation

  • Impacts of urban form on health and well-being

  • Impacts of urban form on resilience and durability (AKA “sustainable urbanism”)

  • Varying impacts of particular structures of public space and neighborhood form

  • Viable alternatives to car dependence and fragmented urbanism (AKA “sprawl”)

Specific research topics may include:

  • Transportation reform

  • Zoning code reform

  • Innovative new zoning approaches (form-based, “generative” etc)

  • Economic tools and strategies

  • Evidence for ecological degradation or improvement

  • Innovative new models of design and/or co-production

  • Project-specific and post-occupancy research on performance, and lessons learned

The outputs of such a research assessment may include working papers, research reports, government panels, conferences, videos, press conferences, media outreach, and peer-reviewed journal papers.

There is of course a need to clarify where these outputs will be aimed. Among the target audiences:

  • City elected officials and planning staff

  • Practitioners

  • Educators, students

  • NGO officials

  • Other researchers (to stimulate their work in more relevant areas)

  • The general public

The upcoming International Making Cities Livable conference in Newport, Rhode Island (April 26-28, will explore all these urgent topics. The goal is clear: we must find better ways to apply research to make it easier -- and a higher priority -- to build and rebuild more walkable, livable, mixed-use communities, that are better able to meet a new generation of challenges for cities, towns and suburbs.


The rich lineup of frontier urban topics will include new research and case studies, and new tools and strategies for public space, placemaking, urban resilience, housing affordability and diversity, zoning code reform, street and transportation reform, aesthetics and livability, and livable cities and towns for ALL.

Above, the partial lineup of speakers for the 60th IMCL conference. See below for a detailed listing.

NEWPORT, RI - The lineup of notable speakers for the gathering here April 26-28 is almost set, and final additions will be made at the end of this week (March 15). The speakers include leading researchers, public officials, NGO heads, and professionals from the US and internationally.

Senior representatives from our partners will join, including Ben Bolgar from The King's Foundation, UK (formerly The Prince's Foundation), Andrew Rudd of UN-Habitat, Mallory Baches of the Congress for the New Urbanism, Setha Low from the Public Space Research Group at City University of New York, Ethan Kent from PlacemakingX, Madeleine Spencer from PlacemakingUS, Christy Milliken from The Seaside Institute, Steve Mouzon from The Urban Guild, Marjo Uotila from the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU), and Jim Brainard, former Mayor of Carmel, Indiana (a stunning case study of successful suburban retrofit) now a board member of the Lennard Institute, hosts of the IMCL conference series.

The conference, on "Making Cities Livable: From Research Into Communication, and ACTION," will be held at the beautiful and historic Bois Doré Estate in Newport, RI USA, April 26-28, 2024. The estate, centrally located in Newport, is being made available through the generous sponsorship of Fairfax and Sammons Architects.

Among the speakers already confirmed:

  • Edgar Adams, Professor at Roger Williams University, will speak with two of his research students on "Just Urbanism: Reclamation + Repair = Renewal."

  • Chris Allen, Director of Development at Strong Towns, will speak on "Your Resilient Community" in a time of growing challenges for cities and towns.

  • Rachelle Alterman, Professor of Law and Urban Planning at the Neaman Center of the Technion University, will speak on "Housing Policy and Land-use Law - A strained marriage," as well as the latest research on tall buildings and their impacts on their surrounding communities.

  • David Brain, Professor of Sociology at New College of Florida, will speak on "Can research ever really matter? The limits of evidence-based approaches to the design of cities."

  • Nir Buras, Principal of Classic Planning Institute, will speak on the latest research on neuroscience and aesthetics, with a case study of a new project in Indiana.

  • Patrick Condon, Professor of Urban Design at the University of British Columbia, will speak on "Unveiling the True Culprit: The Soaring Cost of Urban Housing and the Imperative for Land Value Capture."

  • Kristie Daniel, Director of the Livable Cities Program at HealthBridge Canada, will speak on "Scaling Up Public Spaces - Examples from HealthBridge Around the World."

  • Bari Freeman, Executive Director of Bike Newport, will speak on "The Rhode Island Streets Transformation Project (RISTP)." Bari and her colleagues will also offer a bike tour of Newport (details to be announced soon!)

  • Mary Gardill, Project Manager for Large Scale Private Public Partnerships of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, will present and analyze case studies of regeneration in waterfront communities, and their mechanisms of delivery.

  • Justin Hollander, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University, will speak on "Cognitive Architecture" and the role of user experience in livable urban environments.

  • Rob Knapp, Professor Emeritus of Physics and Sustainability at The Evergreen State College, will present a case study of green building and its relation to larger problems of livability, aesthetics, and quality of life.

  • Senchel Matthews, Associate Director of Built Environment for Full Frame Initiative, will speak, with several of her colleagues, on "Creating Public Spaces that Center Equity and Wellbeing through New Tech".

  • Krista Nightengale, Executive Director of Better Block Foundation, will speak on tactical urbanism and the incremental strategies for winning over neighbors and stakeholders.

  • Rory Nisan, Deputy Mayor of the City of Burlington, Ontario, will speak on "A New Municipal Growth Framework for Canada: towards financial sustainability for municipalities."

  • Alli Quinlan, principal of Flintlock LAB, will speak on pre-approved plans for middle housing as a path for streamlined delivery of affordable and diverse housing by cities and towns, including rowhomes.

  • Ryan Sandwick, Assistant Professor of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture at Cal State Poly San Luis Obispo, will speak on "Turning Academic Aspirations into Community Action," with an emphasis on research into communication, and positive change.

  • Ann Sussman, President of the Human Architecture and Planning Institute, will speak on neuroscience and user experience, with an emphasis on new research on eye-tracking methodologies.

  • David Woltering, Principal of Woltering Community Planning, will speak on "Delivering not just more, but truly livable, housing for generations to come".

Newport is easily accessible from New York, Boston or Providence, by train, bus or car. The venue is within walking distance of many historic inns, shops and services. There are also abundant opportunities for side tours of local landmarks and case study projects (including some we will offer, to be announced soon).

We hope you can join us for a rich and important discussion, and an opportunity to develop further collaborations between attendees! More information is at

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